Archive for June, 2012

30th June
written by amber

Dear Readers,

I’ve taken a short break from daily writing in this blog, expecting that the time freed up from producing a daily short story might transform into time to finish some longer stories and to send some of my stories off to potential markets. Alas, that has not been the case. Job pressures and personal non-writing tasks seem to always take precedence.

Thus, I am re-committing to posting something for you to read every day, starting tomorrow with a serialized story from my first novel, The Healer.

See you on Canada Day!


22nd June
written by amber

Mars 300

The boys would hike far out into the Martian country, carrying nothing beside light backpacks. The landscape was sere but in every sheltered hollow, air plants grew and a network of creeping vines skeined across the gritty dust, binding it against the wind and slowly converting it to soil, as they’d been designed to do.

“Look at this picture of my grandparents out on a walkabout,” Fox said, showing the other boys a projected image.

“Breathers!” they chuckled.

“Still use them over in Cimmerion,” Fox said.

“They’re Luddites there,” Bear scoffed.

“No, they just want to go back to Earth and be able to breathe the air and stand the heat.”

“So they’re not real Martians. They can’t go out from under the domes.”

“If you want to have a dog, you have to live under a dome,” Shark told them. He was obsessed with dogs.

“No, I heard there were some engineered dogs that escaped up in Bonestell and now they run wild up there. Maybe someday there’ll be enough that we’ll see them around here.”

“That would be neat!”

“Let’s camp now,” Fox said to his friends, each one of them named in the current fashion after extinct animals of Earth.

Bear and Shark shook their flimsy tents until the fabric hardened and switched on the solar heaters while Fox gathered meat bush twigs and water bladders and sweet coco-cherries for their dinner.

Three hundred years since Mars had been settled, the boys lay on sleeping pads beside the heaters and watched the sunset and early twinkling stars and the one steady point of light that few Martians considered to be home. It was minus 30 degrees and the atmosphere was 12 percent oxygen, yet they were perfectly comfortable. The planet had changed greatly, but the men – and boys – who lived there had changed much more.

The Story 365 project was a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012.  This was the final story of Bradbury week, in February 2012, and it’s taken us to the possible future of the settlement of Mars as I’ve imagined it. And it’s the final story in this group of Bradbury-inspired stories re-posted as a tribute to the late great SF writer.

21st June
written by amber

Little Dead Town

He pulled into the little dead Martian town, stopped the engine, and let the silence come in around him. Inside the dome, nothing moved and light barely penetrated through the scratched plasteel.

Coral dust formed dunes in the narrow streets and drifted through the open doorways of the houses. Footprints from decades’ worth of visitors lay undisturbed by wind, ever since the breach in the dome had been repaired.

The house numbers were faded but he found his great-grandparents’ house easily, the first house on Walnut Street. The house was tiny, of course. Fitting 50 families and an air plant and heat exchangers and greenhouses beneath one small dome had put space at a premium.

The door opened directly onto the street, without an airlock. No one had anticipated that the plasteel dome could be pierced by anything short of a bomb or a meteorite. Chances of either had been astronomically small, but a meteorite had come.

On Walnut street, all the houses had only one room. They had been for families like his great-grandparents, with grown children no longer living with them or young couples who had no children yet. One room serving as bedroom, living room and kitchen, with a minuscule bathroom behind a curtain.

He needed to do no more than step through the door to see them, two wizened figures in the fold-down bed.

Everyone said it had been a mercy that the accident happened when most people were asleep, but he always wondered how many could have slept through the sudden lack of oxygen and bitter cold.

The meteorite storm had knocked out planetary communications and so it had been nearly four weeks before the ghost town had been discovered, bodies already transformed by cold and dryness into mummies.

No one had considered any grave in the sere Martian dust to be a better resting place than here, in the village of their plans and dreams among their fellow pioneers, the people of New Chengdu.

19th June
written by amber

A Visit To Mars

I’ve been here three weeks, I’m due to go home in four days and nothing much has rung false during my visit until the last few days. I mean, two people up in their 50’s decide to move to Mars and start an air farm – that’s a life-changing experience. So if they seem more energized, more enthusiastic, younger, why should that surprise me?

But it’s more subtle than that. They are fearless in a way that alarms me. They’ve always been bold. The businesses they had on Earth all were gambles and they saw them through, made them work. Retiring to Mars in yet another risky venture is characteristic. But more than once during my visit, I’ve seen them nearly walk out the door without their breathers. I swear, the other day when my mother did this, she snuck a glance my way to see if I’d noticed. She looked guilty.

They’ve brought the local oxygen level up to 5% but that’s not nearly high enough for going out without a breather.

And they go out all the time without warm suits. Yesterday, it was a record 98 below and Dad came into the kitchen from the porch, slapping his hands together. I swear, his fingers were so white I thought they’d break off if he slapped them any harder.

“Dad! Did you go out without your suit?” I knew he had – it was still hanging on a peg beside the door.

“Oh, I just dashed over to the greenhouse. It’s not very far.”

“But Dad – it’s 98 below!”

“Well, I guess we’re just used to it. Putting the suit on is such a hassle. But don’t you try it. You’re not acclimatized like we are.”

I thought to myself that maybe they’re getting too old to be doing something like this, a little senile, forgetting they’re on Mars, not Earth and that extreme cold and airlessness are not things you just get used to. That they can kill you.

Or, I ask myself in the middle of the night, based on very little evidence, suppose those two people in the next room, asleep, are not my mother and father at all?

In this Ray Bradbury-inspired story, the borrowed line is the last line of the story.

18th June
written by amber

Four Bodies

The four bodies lay in the sun. They were small, they were green, they weren’t Martians.

Josh thought they were Martians.

“Come on, Josh,” I said, “we’ve been on the planet for ninety-eight years now and no one’s ever seen anything like this. No evidence that anything more than bacteria extinct a million years ago lived here.”

“So where did they come from then?”

Well, that was the question, wasn’t it? The question for me, as sheriff of my county, and Josh, being my deputy, wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

Before I could answer, he served up his theories. “Either they’re from here, but they’ve been way underground or somewhere else we haven’t looked yet. Or else–” He noticed me rolling my eyes and spoke louder, “Or else they aren’t Martian, in which case they must be aliens from someplace else. It’s not as if we’d have any way of knowing if an alien spaceship was coming into our atmosphere, would we?”

He glared upwards, which is what we were all doing recently, venting our spleen skyward, to Mother Earth up there somewhere, the source of all our discontent. No doubt they were discontented with us as well, the orphan colony nearly 100 years old and still sucking at mother’s tit. We had resources to burn, but nothing they wanted and needed badly enough to pay to bring it up through our gravity well. They were happy to send us prisoners for the Hellas penal territory and wacko religious compoundists, but they preferred to trade with the developed asteroids. There were voices back on Earth, louder and louder every year, saying we should be cut off all assistance to ‘make it on our own.’ If they got their way, well, I didn’t even want to think about it.

“You’re right, Josh. They must be aliens, Martian or not. Take some photos now, then we’ll haul them back to the village and Doc Smith can do the autopsies. I’ll just go up on the hill there to get a line of sight to phone it in.”

I knew that in my absence he’d take more photos than the official ones and I knew his photos would be smuggled off planet as soon as he could manage it. And I knew I’d let Doc Smith bungle the autopsy and then somehow the bodies would mysteriously disappear.

I didn’t know who was behind this hoax, but I’d play my part happily, to buy Mars a decade or two of wonder and investment from the home planet.